Date of Graduation

12-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Charles H. Adams

Committee Member

Sidney Burris

Second Committee Member

Benjamin Fagan

Keywords

Language, literature and linguistics; Philosophy, religion and theology; Catholic; Cooper; Explorations; Hawthorne; Longfellow; Protestant; Spirituality

Abstract

This dissertation examines the works of James Fenimore Cooper, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, focusing upon their explorations of Roman Catholic spirituality, as reflected in their poetry, prose, and personal writings. Despite the anti-Romanism prevalent in nineteenth-century American political and religious culture, these authors engaged deeply with Catholic sacramentality, discovering an appeal in the Catholic faith tradition that provided possible answers to questions about spirituality in an increasingly pluralistic democratic society. The first chapter explores the aesthetic appeal of Roman Catholic sacramentals that attracted the attention of Cooper, Longfellow, and Hawthorne. The second chapter connects Catholic sacramentality to the American landscape, examining how these authors infused settings with a Catholic understanding of nature. The third chapter examines how these writers created ageric saints suited to the unique conditions of the American landscape in their works. The fourth chapter considers the connections between the consecrated life of ageric saints and its compatibility with nineteenth-century American understandings of civic virtue and republicanism. Despite many ongoing cultural conflicts, Cooper, Longfellow, and Hawthorne served through their creative works as mediators of the conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism in nineteenth-century America, and their writings allow a better understanding of how Catholicism could be part of the identity that Jacksonian-era Americans were trying to create.

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